U.S. Marines Not Leaving Okinawa for Australia, Wolfowitz Says
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
SINGAPORE, May 30, 2003 The American military is reviewing its troop deployments worldwide, but U.S. Marines aren't being pulled out of Okinawa for redeployment to Australia, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz said here May 30.
Wolfowitz discussed this and other issues with reporters at this island city- nation. The deputy defense secretary is in Singapore to discuss mutual security issues with senior East Asian officials. On May 31, he is slated to address attendees at the second annual Asian Security Conference, sponsored by the International Institute for Strategic Studies.
The deputy defense secretary is on the second day of a trip to Singapore, South Korea and Japan. Singapore is 12 hours ahead of Eastern Daylight Time.
America's security commitment to East Asia "is an important part of keeping this a peaceful part of the world," Wolfowitz remarked to reporters, noting he had attended last year's Singapore conference too.
The deputy secretary said he and other senior U.S. officials are attending this year's conference "to understand better" how the United States can continue to contribute toward a peaceful East Asia, "and to convey our views about the major security issues of the day."
Accompanied by U.S. Sens. Chuck Hagel and Jack Reed, U.S. Ambassador to Singapore Frank L. Lavin, and Navy Adm. Thomas Fargo, head of U.S. Pacific Command, Wolfowitz remarked to reporters that the Asian conference is an important conduit for communication between regional leaders and allies.
"We have conferences of this kind on a fairly regular basis in Europe. ... Asia needs more of this kind of consultation and dialogue," the deputy defense secretary pointed out.
United States "is committed," Wolfowitz asserted, to ensure stability in East Asia and recognizes the importance of the region to U.S. and world security.
Hagel, who with Reed, also attended last year's conference, echoed Wolfowitz's comments, noting, "this part of the world remains a critical part" of U.S. interests and "will for a long time in the future."
"Asia is an important area of the world," Reed agreed. "By coming here and listening to our colleagues and our contemporaries, we're learning more, specifically about the issues that are here (and) the issues that affect not just the people in this region, but the whole world."
Wolfowitz also fielded a reporter's question about a recent news story that asserts the United States is moving its Marines out of Japan's Okinawa to Australia.
"There's a lot in that story - including that point - that's simply wrong," Wolfowitz responded. However, he noted, the United States is "in the process of taking a fundamental look at our military posture worldwide - including the United States."
Because of the changed nature of today's threats and the "dramatic" new capabilities of U.S. forces, Wolfowitz pointed out, "it's appropriate to look at how those forces are postured (and) how we can get the most effectiveness out of them" while maintaining their deterrence presence.
Speculation that the U.S. Marines would be moved from Okinawa to Australia "simply has no foundation," Wolfowitz asserted.
Another reporter asked Wolfowitz if the United States is now discounting the importance of finding deposed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction.
The United States is still looking for Hussein's weapons of mass destruction, Wolfowitz replied. He cited that issue, along with the regime's ties to global terrorism and the abuse the regime inflicted upon the Iraqi people, as among the reasons the U.S. and its coalition partners went to war against Saddam.
And, he added, there was also the danger that Hussein's weapons of mass destruction would find their way into the hands of terrorists.
Saddam's WMD programs "have always been part of the rationale" for deposing his regime, Wolfowitz noted.
And, pointing to the mass graves being uncovered in Iraq, Wolfowitz opined that Hussein's regime "abused Muslims, perhaps worse than any other government in the world."
The United States and its coalition partners are welcoming help "to give the people of Iraq a chance to build a much better ... democratic country," Wolfowitz declared.
Wolfowitz, who is a former U.S. ambassador to Indonesia, later met with Indonesia Minister of Defense Matori Abdul Djalil. The two senior defense officials then fielded reporters' questions.
Indonesia, which has the world's highest Muslim population among its 200 million people, the defense secretary pointed out to reporters, has been undergoing a transition to a democratic government from formerly autocratic rule.
"Just five years ago, Indonesia went through a very violent transition" when the dictatorship collapsed, Wolfowitz said, noting, "we all have a stake" in seeing Indonesia successfully attain a stable, democratic government.
However, pointing to the Oct. 12, 2002, terror attack at Bali, Wolfowitz remarked, "Terrorists do not want to see Indonesia succeed - they would like Indonesia backwards."
Yet, the Bali attack "has awakened the Indonesian people," Wolfowitz asserted, noting, Indonesians now realize that "terrorism is aimed at them, as well as at the United States and the West."
Singapore, a former British crown colony, has been an independent nation since 1965. An island city-state of just over 4 million people, Singapore is located between Malaysia to the north and Indonesia to the south.